02/03/2012 4:50PM

Aqueduct: Big Brownie scores in return from nine-month layoff

Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Big Brownie, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr., scores coming back from a nine-month layoff in the Holly Springs.

Trainer Leah Gyarmati’s strong winter continued Friday when Big Brownie, making her first start in nine months, rallied to win the $75,000 Holly Springs Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Lady Gracenote. It was a neck back to Saltamontes in third.

Gyarmati ended Friday’s card with 6 wins from 29 starters at the meet. She also has 4 seconds and 5 thirds.

Big Brownie was ridden to victory by Irad Ortiz Jr., his first win as a journeyman rider. He lost his apprentice status following Wednesday’s program.

Big Brownie had to withstand an inquiry and jockey’s objection to maintain the victory. Ramon Dominguez, aboard Lady Gracenote, claimed foul against Ortiz for interference in the stretch. The stewards rejected that claim.

Big Brownie was third early as Saltamontes set the pace, chased by Nicole’s Miss El. Big Brownie got shuffled back to fourth, but came on again and took the lead from Saltamontes inside the sixteenth pole. Lady Gracenote caught Saltamontes for second.

Big Brownie covered the six furlongs in 1:11.70 and returned $5.30 as the favorite.

Big Brownie, a 6-year-old daughter of Wheelaway, was making her first start since winning the Cupids Way at Belmont on May 4. She bled through Lasix in that race for the second straight time and was given a vacation.

Claiming activity remains hot and heavy

With nine more claims made on Thursday, there have been 251 horses claimed for a total of $4,209,000 through 42 days of racing since the inner track opened on Nov. 30.

The majority of the claims have been for $7,500. Those horses now run for purses between $26,000 and $30,000, a $10,000 increase from last year.

There has been at least one horse claimed every racing day and since Jan. 19 the average number of horses claimed each day has been 8.7.

Memorial service for Ferriola

A memorial service for trainer Pete Ferriola will be held Monday at the Belmont Café, beginning at 7 p.m. The New York Racing Association will provide transportation for horsemen stabled at Aqueduct with a shuttle leaving at 6 p.m. from gate 6.

Ferriola, a three-time leading trainer on the New York Racing Association circuit died on Dec. 9 at the age of 69.

Ferriola, who won his first race on Feb. 3, 1978, won 1,129 races before retiring in 2001.